Speculation that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could run for president has been brewing in recent weeks. His personal goal for 2017 is speaking with people from all 50 states. He fought to stop government service from being considered a voluntary company resignation. And on top of all that, he’s been distancing himself from atheism. Though these signs scream politically ambitious, Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed News,”No,” when asked if he had any plans to run for president.
“I’m focused on building our community at Facebook and working on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” he elaborated.
Semantics are important here. Zuckerberg didn’t explicitly say he would never run for president, only that he’s focused right now on his current responsibilities and doesn’t have plans to run. Moreover, the question was limited to the prospect of a presidential campaign. There are plenty of other offices and positions he could seek — A California governorship wouldn’t be out of the question, nor would a White House Cabinet position.
Politicians deflecting and flat-out denying speculation about the prospect of future candidacy is a known political trope. For example, Hillary Clinton (among many others) led reporters to believe she wouldn’t seek a position she ultimately sought.
”You know, in 2008, I hope I’m going to be working for the re-election of John Kerry and John Edwards,” Clinton told CNN in 2004, four years before campaigning against then Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.
President Trump himself has flip-flopped on more than one occasion about his interest in running for president. After rising in the polls, Trump announced he was going to forgo the 2012 election because he wasn’t “ready to leave the private sector.” Even earlier, in the late 1990s, Trump said on CNBC’s Hardball, “People want me to [run for president] all the time … I don’t like it.” We know how that ultimately turned out.
TechCrunch surfaced the potential for Zuckerberg to run for President last month when it discovered other publications had misinterpreted the limitations on his ability to serve in government while running Facebook. Though it was reported that he could only serve a maximum of two years, TechCrunch found that if he owns more than 30% of the Facebook stock he did when he signed the stock reclassification agreement, or he has board approval, he can serve indefinitely in government while still controlling Facebook.
An unnamed BuzzFeed source explained that Zuckerberg has his political hands full with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Zuckerberg has not been shy about making the organization political. He brought on former Obama campaign manager and friend of tech David Plouffe to manage policy and advocacy. George W. Bush’s former campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, is also engaged with the group as chair of its Policy Advisory Board. The initiative and the stock reclassification agreement are inherently linked as 99 percent of the couple’s Facebook shares have been donated to the group.
The bottom line is that nobody knows where Zuckerberg’s head will be in a few years. The United States is facing a massive amount of political uncertainty. President Donald Trump’s ability to push the country forward over the next four years will either open-up or rule-out the chances for another billionaire executive to gain popularity.